Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes are removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. In the traditional Roman calendar, it is officially known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the Eastern churches, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I already thought Confession did that anyway. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for the short version.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Week of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Tritium, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the extension of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which are to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

“Awake, O sleeper ...”

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace, while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is a "sand art" presentation of the road to Calvary, produced by Francis O'Donohue.
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. It is quiet here at Chez Alexandre. The week has amounted to a "working vacation," mostly doing things around the house that needed being done. And yet there are preparations to be made, errands to be run, and ... more writing.

For a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

“I’m (still) on a mission from God!” (or, Why I Am Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent)

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

By now, any number of participants in the Catholic blogosphere have announced, with some measure of fanfare, that they are giving up blogging and other forms of social media for Lent (or, in one case, announcing giving up blogging, and then spending more time on social media, and you know who you are, Skippy!). We're supposed to admire them. They're welcome to the exercise if they'd like. In reading some of them over the years, they'd be doing us all a favor.

Meanwhile, at a place in the Catholic blogosphere well outside the Celebrity Convert Circuit, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. In some parts of Europe, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. Officially, however, the Roman (Latin) tradition would not begin the penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent," or "the Coming." There were also the "Ember Days," three days of penance each occurring on a quarterly basis throughout the year. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the Year of Grace.

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up anything, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up anything involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there will be an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

But don't take MY word for it.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

And speaking of the season, it doesn't necessarily start right away. The traditional Roman calendar precedes Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (literally "seventy days" but actually "within the octave of seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. As with Lent, the priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is not sung, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. But unlike Lent, the musical accompaniment is not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor can be placed on the reredos behind the altar, as normally done during the year.

This is also the inspiration for the pre-Lenten celebration known as “Carnival” (from the Latin for “farewell to meat”).

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the tracks, the Byzantine Rite has five special Sundays preceding their "Great Fast": "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic churches), "The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when the faithful begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs, don't ask me why). The following day is when the the Fast begins in the East, and is generally known as "Clean Monday."

In addition, there was a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla, eh?)

So right now you're saying, “Pray tell us, O Black Hatted One, as you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge, how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, there is much, much more to Lent than giving up things, never mind making a big-@$$ whoop-dee-do out of it. There is a significance in the marking of sacred time, something lost on a people whose solemnities all get moved to the nearest Sunday. But you wouldn't know all that if there was no one to tell you along the way, now, would you? Duh, guess not! Besides, I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow.

To the extent that man with black hat identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy!

But still, you must be wondering if yours truly is actually giving up anything for Lent. Well, yes, and it's something really important.

And I'm not tellin.'
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Awake, Awake, My Valentine

We all know the story of Saint Valentine, don't we? And that there might have been more than one, and that he was removed in the 1969 reformed Roman calendar, as his account was not historically reliable by the standards set in later centuries. Well, if you don't know all that, click here. Or even here.

And while you're at it, listen to this.

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Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

He took me to a garden fair
And there he laid me down
His left hand lay beneath my head
His right did me surround
His eyes were palms by water brooks
His fingers rods of gold
His head upon my breast did lie
His love did me enfold

Her hair is like a flock of goats
Across the mountain side
Her breasts are like the grapes upon
The vine where I shall bide
Her mouth is sweeter far than vine
And warm to my embrace
No mountain side can hide my love
No veil conceal her face

My lover's hand was on the door
My belly stirred within
My fingers wet with myrrh
I pulled the bolt to let him in
With my own hands I opened
But I found I was alone
My soul failed for my lover had
Withdrawn himself and gone

I'll get me to a mount of myrrh
And there I'll lay me down
For waters cannot quench my love
In floods it cannot drown
My love is clear as the sun
She's fair as the moon
Oh stir not up nor waken love
Lest it should come to soon

Awake, awake oh northern wind
Blow on my garden fair
Let my lover come to me
And tell me of his care
For now the winter it is past
Likewise the drops of rain
Come lie in the valley of lilies
Midst the roses of the plain

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Steeleye Span is an English folk rock band formed in 1969, partially from ex-members of Fairport Convention. They do English ballads, to a greater or lesser degree with an electric twist. Storm Force Ten was their tenth album, released in 1977. It is somewhat of a departure in that the fiddler John Kirkpatrick used the accordion instead for the whole thing. It is the only album up to that time that ever used a piano accordion.

And so it goes.
 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Scouting at 107

On this day in 1910, at the exact time of this posting, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in Washington DC. It stands today as one of the largest youth programs in the United States, and the second largest national scout association in the world (as Indonesia's remains the largest). Much has happened with the BSA since the 1910 centennial year, including some controversial decisions in the area of membership policy. Those are not the subject of today's entry, but rather, a view of two entries from our archives that talk about what scouting has done for yours truly.

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WHERE BUFFALOS ROAM (February 2010)

It might be rather pathetic to make much out of it, but I'm not going to lie about it either. My childhood was, for the most part, not a very happy one. My years in Scouting didn't change that. But of all the experiences I had growing up, it was Scouting that gave me the venue to rise above the fray.

Obviously, it didn't happen overnight.

I actually joined the Scouting movement in the fall of 1963, with Pack 128, sponsored by the Milford United Methodist Church in Milford, Ohio. I was in Cubbing for two years. It wasn't much of an experience, really. Even my dad, who was active in the pack as a volunteer, wasn't impressed with Cubbing as a program. I don't remember why. Two years later, as I approached my eleventh birthday, we decided I wouldn't re-register.

But the following year, in February of 1966, I joined Troop 120, sponsored by Victor Stier American Legion Post 450, also in Milford, Ohio. There were some older boys whom I wanted to emulate, but they mysteriously left en masse after about a year, leaving us with a re-organization that eliminated the Eagle Patrol, of which I was about to be made Patrol Leader. I wouldn't get close to the "green bars" again for several years.

My dad became Scoutmaster after the mass exodus, in the spring of 1967. He had little in the way of outdoor experience, but was a consummate administrator. Our "patrol leaders training" classes were run like adult business seminars, and it was only later that I discovered that they were even supposed to be held outdoor. One night, a young man in his mid-twenties walked in, wearing cowboy boots. Hey, this guy is really cool, I thought. And with that, Phil Rumsey became our Assistant Scoutmaster, and Dad's other half.

One of the problems I've always had with how troop organization is handled in Scouting, is with the "staff" positions, those which are not in charge of people but of things. Jobs like Troop Quartermaster, Troop Scribe, and Troop Librarian. I had those three jobs in that order. Advancing from the rank of Tenderfoot to Life Scout (the one before Eagle) took me only three years. I would spend another three years as a Life Scout, and in the meaningless position of Troop Librarian.

It was a dead end. I knew it, and the idiot grown-ups on the Troop Committee knew it. No one had any ideas, but if Ritalin had been around back then, they probably would have begged my parents to have me put on it.

Finally, someone -- I don't remember who -- suggested I become a Den Chief. That's a Boy Scout who helps a Den Mother or Den Leader in managing a Cub Den, sort of like a support mentor. My pack never had such things, because our affiliate troop was rather insular. But this was with the other Cub Pack in town, the one that went with the program. And, it was a "Webelos" Den, which consisted of ten-year-old boys who would be eligible for Boy Scouting in a year. They were fun kids, if several years younger, and I got along with them well enough. But it was the Den Leader, one Mr Bailey, who first taught me the lessons of leadership.

When the ten-year-olds became eleven-year-olds, most of them actually joined Boy Scouting, my Troop in particular. As remarkable as this was -- there is a high attrition rate from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts -- no one wanted them, so they stuck them in a patrol that was about to be phased out. And, of course, being desperate as they were, they made me the patrol leader. I can tell you their expectations for these guys wasn't very high.

By this time, I had read everything I could get my hands on regarding patrol leadership; program ideas, team-building exercises, the works. We went on activities as a group by ourselves, without the rest of the troop, something you only read about in the Boy Scout magazines, but never saw in real life. We had a patrol flag, and actually had our own patrol meetings. We all got together and built our own sled, and kicked ass in the competition at the district's winter "Klondike Derby" campout. The weather was near zero that night, and I spent most of it awake, keeping the fire going, and my young charges from freezing to death by sleeping close by.

When I sat before the Eagle Board of Review, in December of that year, one of the panelists said that "Dave started out as being a problem, but he ended up being the solution." I tried to start an Explorer Post (which now would be called a Venturing Crew -- long story) specializing in canoeing and camping. I actually had a few of my friends interested, but couldn't get enough adult support, so the idea tanked. But I passed the Board of Review. I stayed with the troop for another year, passing on a unanimous vote to be made Senior Patrol Leader, opting instead to be a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, a position common to Eagle Scouts who remain. Sadly, the unit was already going downhill due to poor adult leadership (my Dad was already out of the picture, another long story), and lack of support from the American Legion post (essentially a group of aging drunks).

With graduation from high school, I left Scouting behind -- reluctantly, as with so many institutions of my childhood, they didn't seem to know what to do with someone no longer a boy, but not quite a man. I was getting a part-time job after school, and making plans for college. Barely a year after joining the ranks of eagles, it was all so far away.

My son never got to be in Scouting, mostly due to the lack of cooperation from his mother. I think a few years of it would have done him a world of good, but it's all academic now. With nearly six years back in uniform, I have yet to truly find my niche.

But for a brief episode, it was mine for the taking. The image you see there is of the Buffalo Patrol of Milford Troop 120, in January or February of 1971, as I will always remember them: from left to right, Seth Wallace (whose dad was an architect, and gave me the idea to be one too), Mark Bittner (my faithful, if quiet, assistant), Eric Strathman (who later went on to become "Senior Patrol Leader," the top youth position in a troop), myself, ???? Bollman (whose dad thought he was crazy for being in Scouting when he could be playing football), and Tim Ring (one of my guitar students).

I'm breaking with convention here, by listing names of non-relatives, in the hope that the result is a fitting tribute, to one of the few high points in my childhood, and the colleagues who made it possible. What I wouldn't give to know where they are today, and how they are doing.

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I BLAME THE BOY SCOUTS (November 2010)

Scouting has been the whipping-boy for a number of "enlightened" people these days, as the people who were too cool for it got older, and more obnoxious. Then there's Boyd Matson, a contributing editor and host of National Geographic Weekend on radio.

On this, my third climb up Kilimanjaro, I already know what to expect: six nights sleeping on the ground, no bath for a week, cold wind, thin air, and maybe mild altitude sickness. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this, again?” Finally I come up with an answer. I blame the Boy Scouts of America. That organization stole my soul when I was a kid and planted it in the wilderness. I was too young to resist their clever sales pitch built around hiking and camping trips. And their system of rewarding accomplishments with higher ranks and colorful merit badges meant, in effect, there was always one more goal to reach, one more mountain to climb ...

It was the summer of 2003. After a bout with rehab, and from there deciding he wanted me back in his life, I took Paul with me to Seattle. I've described his escapades there in other accounts, but there was what seemed to be a climactic one. We visited a friend of mine who had a little place by the lake there in town -- of course, Seattle is surrounded by lakes and inlets, so that isn't hard -- and she had two kayaks. I hadn't been on one in twenty years, but I tried it, and it was just like riding a bike. Then, of course, Paul just had to try it. He had NEVER been in a kayak before, and when he tried it, it was like riding a bike for him too. When he got to the middle of the lake (right in the middle of potential motor traffic), he just sat there, for about ten minutes, and looked around. We were yelling at him to come back before the Harbor Police showed up, but I don't believe he knew we were there.

He never said later what it was that possessed him, but from a distance, I could swear he was having an epiphany. It was as if the events leading up to that day were coalescing into a sign, a message of where to go next.

Had he ever been in Scouting, he would have had a lot of those. I did.

(H/T to Tom Turba.)

+    +    +
.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Candlemas Day (or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)

“When the days
were completed
for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus
up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written
in the law of the Lord,
Every male that
opens the womb
shall be consecrated
to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice
of a pair of turtledoves
or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”

(Luke 2:22-24)


Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), exactly forty days after Christmas. In the Catholic tradition, the Christmas Cycle officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, and throughout the world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical Year.

The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.

In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, "If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks."

Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called ... the groundhog.

Today, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know.

You just can't argue with reasoning like that, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Friday, January 27, 2017

2017 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our eighth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense once again, to come in out of the cold during the annual March For Life, for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.

During the event, this video clip provides a live feed of the proceedings. With its conclusion, you are invited to view the full pre-recording (which begins at 8:37). You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

The list of speakers announced two days prior to the event (not necessarily in order of appearance) are as follows:

Brandon Buell, Father of Jaxon "Strong" Buell, Co-Author, Don't Blink, and Co-Trustee for The Jaxon Strong Foundation
Rebekah Buell, Pro-Life Speaker & Abortion-Reversal Mother
Arina Grossu, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council
Kelsey Harkness, Senior News Producer, The Daily Signal
Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life America
Anna Hoduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life
Rep Randy Hultgren (R-IL)
Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr, President of the International Missions Department, The Church of God in Christ
Melissa Ohden, Author, “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir”
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
Brandi Swindell, Founder and President, The Stanton Project
Rep Claudia Tenney (R-NY)

A transcript of the Twitter feed will appear below once the event is completed. Items may be edited slightly for correction, especially when we have to look up some of the big words.

+    +    +

"Good morning to our online viewers ..." #prolifecon
8:30 AM

Vice President Pence will be appearing at the Rally of the #MarchForLife. This is unprecedented. #prolifecon
8:31 AM

Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life America. #prolifecon
8:32 AM

Learned of her son's serious illness. "How can I make sure that [his] life is a fulfilled life?" #prolifecon
8:33 AM

"You live an extraordinary life when you live to serve others." #prolifecon
8:33 AM

"This is a crazy life we have as #ProLife activists ... we need a new generation of heroes ... you can be that hero online." #prolifecon
8:35 AM

"We are called to witness to the truth, that we don't need Planned Parenthood anymore." #prolifecon
8:38 AM

Lauren Merz, LiveAction. #prolifecon
8:43 AM

Despite playing it down, Planned Parenthood performs 30 percent of the abortions in America. "They *are* an abortion business." #prolifecon
8:45 AM

"We contacted Planned Parenthood locations in search of prenatal care here." #prolifecon
8:46 AM

"We contacted 97 locations. Only 5 offered prenatal care." #prolifecon
8:48 AM

Rebekah Buell, Pro-Life Speaker & Abortion-Reversal Mother. #prolifecon
8:49 AM

"I became pregnant at 17. I was scared and I was shocked. I lived in a Baptist home where we never talked about sex." #prolifecon
8:50 AM

"I needed to get out of an abusive relationship. And then I found out that I was pregnant again. I considered an abortion." #prolifecon
8:51 AM

"I visited a clinic close to my university (in Sacramento)." #prolifecon
8:52 AM

"I was told: 'We don't give the abortion pill on Fridays.'" #prolifecon
8:53 AM

Went to Planned Parenthood, who kept putting her off for a couple of weeks. Finally got the RU-486 pill. #prolifecon
8:55 AM

Was given an additional pill, was not told of its full effects, or that it was normally given while in labor. #prolifecon
8:56 AM

Had a change of heart, sought out a #ProLife doctor for a procedure of reversing the process. #prolifecon
8:57 AM

PP kept calling, told her that the reversal would create health risks. #prolifecon
8:58 AM

The second child was born, now one of an estimated 300 reversed procedures. #prolifecon
8:59 AM

Brandi Swindle, Founder and President, The Stanton Project. #prolifecon
9:00 AM

"Could we possibly replace Planned Parenthood?" #prolifecon
9:01 AM

Congress is seriously considering defunding Planned Parenthood. #prolifecon
9:02 AM

Cosmopolitan ("Cosmo") did a feature piece on the The Stanton Project. It was a wonderful piece. #prolifecon
9:03 AM

"We have bought property on each side of one Planned Parenthood location in Idaho. A church is being built on the other plot." #prolifecon
9:05 AM

"Planned Parenthood is suing us, in part for parking our mobile clinic in front of our own property, next door to them." #prolifecon
9:07 AM

The "March for Women" on the 21st tried to kick them out. They marched anyway. #prolifecon
9:08 AM

thestantonproject.org #prolifecon
9:11 AM

Congressman Randy Hultgren, Republican from Illinois. #prolifecon
9:15 AM

"Where I get so encouraged by the #MarchForLife, it's with the number of young people ..." #prolifecon
9:17 AM

Discussed a bill to ensure more transparency in how taxpayer funding will be used for health care services. #prolifecon
9:19 AM

President Trump will announce his next nominee for the Supreme Court at the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast. #prolifecon
9:24 AM

"We can have an impact [on doing the right thing] in the next four to six months, in the next four years." #prolifecon
9:27 AM

"I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. Henry Hyde was my congressman. He was my hero." #prolifecon
9:31 AM

"We are now going now to the National Mall for a live report from Brent." #prolifecon
9:33 AM

Brandon Buell, Father of Jaxon "Strong" Buell, Co-Author, Don't Blink, and Co-Trustee for The Jaxon Strong Foundation. #prolifecon
9:34 AM

A short video clip of young Jaxon. #prolifecon
9:37 AM

"I come to you today as a father, because a *man* who stands up for these values is so rare." #prolifecon
9:39 AM

"Every day I strive to be a better husband, and a better father." #prolifecon
9:39 AM

There was so little information available on Jaxon's condition, many parents didn't make the decision to bring a child to term. #prolifecon
9:43 AM

facebook.com/WeAreJaxonStrong/ … #prolifecon
9:44 AM

jaxonstrong.com #prolifecon
9:44 AM

"We are called a hate group." ("Men will hate you because of me." - Jesus Christ) #prolifecon
9:52 AM

"I wanna talk for a second about my wife." #prolifecon
9:52 AM

Jaxon and Mom are introduced to the stage. #prolifecon
9:54 AM

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD." #prolifecon
9:55 AM

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, Republican from New York. #prolifecon
10:06 AM

The congresswoman is speaking by video stream from a bus en route to the #MarchforLife2017. "We're 20 minutes out." #prolifecon
10:08 AM

Melissa Ohden, Author, "You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir." #prolifecon
10:09 AM

Melissa is a survivor of a failed saline abortion. #prolifecon
10:10 AM

"We've got 109,000 views now (at #prolifecon)."
10:11 AM

Founder of the Abortion Survivors Network. #prolifecon
10:12 AM

"I would encourage you to continue to move beyond your comfort zone." #prolifecon
10:14 AM

CMP videos, defunding Planned Parenthood efforts and hearings, survivors testifying. #prolifecon
10:16 AM

"Post about where you are, add photos and video, as it's happening, tag others." #prolifecon
10:18 AM

"Videos and music make a strong impact and are shared frequently." #prolifecon
10:19 AM

"I often say the personal is political, the political is personal." #prolifecon
10:20 AM

"Live streaming of hearings and events such as FRC's lecture series popular with lots of initial viewers and shares." #prolifecon
10:21 AM

"Be relevant. Pick up what is happening or reflect upon a historical significance." #prolifecon
10:22 AM

"Be willing to go mainstream, look for opportunities. If you see a pro-life story, share it, comment on it, share information." #prolifecon
10:24 AM

"You Carried Me" is a book by Melissa Ohden. #prolifecon
10:25 AM

Kelsey Harkness, Senior News Producer, The Daily Signal. #prolifecon
10:28 AM

First, a video is shown featuring Kelsey talking about the March. #prolifecon
10:29 AM

"Organizers of the Women's March formed a very progressive platform" excluding some women's voices, including #prolife women. #prolifecon
10:32 AM

"We needed to get ahead of the narrative, so we had two days to produce that video." #prolifecon
10:34 AM

"The #prolife movement is far more diverse than I ever imagined growing up in Connecticut." #prolifecon
10:35 AM

Saw this clip. The reporter definitely got schooled! trib.al/y1bqz8s #prolifecon
10:37 AM

"Many people don't understand how far along in a pregnancy a woman can have an abortion." #prolifecon
10:47 AM

Congressman Jim Banks, Republican from Indiana. #prolifecon
10:48 AM

Thanks to @FRC as an important resource for freshman members of Congress. @prolifecon
10:49 AM

Governor Pence was the most #ProLife governors in Indiana history. #prolifecon
10:50 AM

Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr, President of the International Missions Department, The Church of God in Christ. #prolifecon
10:52 AM

"There is a demonic spirit of deception about what the Bible teaches." #prolifecon
10:55 AM

"You’re going to have a lot of people coming on Friday.” #prolifecon
10:56 AM

"If you don't want these children, we will take them into our homes." #prolifecon
10:57 AM

"We [use mobile apps to] engage others in intercessory prayer. You can't hate someone you're praying for." #prolifecon
11:00 AM

familylifecampaign.org #prolifecon
11:01 AM

The notion of a "black church" and a "white church" is "oxymoronic." #prolifecon
11:03 AM

"It's up to the Church of Jesus Christ, not the government, to show the world what the real issues are." #prolifecon
11:06 AM

Catherine Szeltner, Host of EWTN ProLife Weekly. #prolifecon
11:08 AM

Communication is two way, not only in how a message is presented, but in how people can respond, as in a one-on-one encounter. #prolifecon
11:14 AM

"Be prepared to answer the question, why are you #ProLife?" #prolifecon
11:15 AM

Thomas Jacobson, Global Life Campaign, presents a summary of an "Abortion Worldwide Report." #prolifecon
11:19 AM

Anna Holduski, Campaign Speaker & Runner, Project If Life #prolifecon
11:27 AM

projectif.life #prolifecon
11:29 AM

"Thank you for joining and sharing your talents." #prolifecon
11:31 AM

.... and we're out! #prolifecon
11:31 AM

+    +    +

This year's edition, as with those in the past, will be updated with additional content over the next 24 hours. While the general sentiment of this year's March is the most optimistic in many years, with the unqualified support of both President Trump and Vice President Pence, this year's ProLifeCon had a lower turnout than usual, which was most unfortunate. Not only that, but at least four of the speakers were not on the original schedule, which made it difficult to provide correct information for the Twitter feed in real time. And so, corrections to the original transcript have been made, and this writer's concerns were addressed to the management of the Family Research Council, which was most receptive. It is hoped that an updated list will be provided to participants prior to the event.
 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Agnus Dei

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions.

She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.

It is on this occasion that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There, he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Information courtesy of Fisheaters.com. Image courtesy of Teresa Satola.)

The “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”) is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax taken from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome.

This practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps now is a good time to revive it.
 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following the traditional observance of Epiphany on the sixth of January. This was the Monday when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work.

John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?

“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.

They could do worse.
 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Christus Mansionem Benedicat!

VIDEO: A 2008 performance of "March of the Kings" ("Marche Des Rois") by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, Vermont.

+    +    +

The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)

At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.

+    +    +

We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":

Give the King your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the King's son;

That he may rule your people righteously
    and the poor with justice.

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,
    and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people;
    he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure,
    from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field,
    like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish;
    there shall be abundance of peace
        till the moon shall be no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

His foes shall bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute,
    and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

All kings shall bow down before him,
    and all the nations do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress,
    and the oppressed who has no helper.

He shall have pity on the lowly and poor;
    he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,
    and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
    and may there be given to him gold from Arabia;
        may prayer be made for him always,
            and may they bless him all the day long.

May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
    growing thick even on the hilltops;
        may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
            and its grain like grass upon the earth.

May his Name remain for ever
    and be established as long as the sun endures;
        may all the nations bless themselves in him
            and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

And blessed be his glorious Name for ever!
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen.

Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)

          C

“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“In the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and in the years to come.”

20      C      M      B      17

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      17

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      17

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      17

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  17

The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.

+    +    +

For those who require "the short form," there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Clifton Heights, New York. On those nights when the weather is particularly inclement, one can simply read from the Gospel of John while inscribing over the door ...

In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)

and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)

and the Word was God. (inscribe +)

He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)

All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)

and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)

And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)

and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)

and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)

the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 7)

… then with the Holy Water, making the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus ... Mansionem ... Benedicat” and calling it a night.

+    +    +

This day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, such as this one in Madrid, Spain.

Although we know the "kings" were not actually royalty at all, but scholars in astronomy and other sciences who came from Persia, tradition has associated Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (their names as rendered in the apocryphal gospel accounts) as representing the Orient, Arabia, and Africa, the three great land masses of the known world in the first millennium.

As with the eve of Saint Nicholas Day in parts of western Europe, children in the Hispanic world are known to leave their shoes out and receive candy and other treats by the next morning. In Spain, children traditionally received presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, although recent years have seen both Christmas and Epiphany as a time for gift-giving.

I just love parades.
 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Christ-Mass: Twelfth Night

When I was growing up back in Ohio, the village of Milford had their own way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They would be collected and taken to some field at the edge of town, stacked in a big pile, and "Twelfth Night" would be celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log."

This is remarkable when you consider that Milford is a town first settled by (and more than two centuries later, is still more or less dominated by) Methodists and not "Catlickers." (Here we note that Protestants in the northern states did not celebrate Christmas until well into the 19th century. Indeed, it was outlawed by the northern colonies in the early years of European settlement. The southern states, on the other hand ...) Of course, my parents -- may God rest their souls -- didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it, but I would always read about it that week in the local rag known as The Milford Advertiser.

These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, as in this little gem I read a few years ago, from the county's Office of Environmental Quality:

“Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch.”

They have got to be kidding. That kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the glory of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading it on your lawn and walking all over it?

Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we will celebrate Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Tomorrow the lights that are traditionally left on all during Christmastide, will finally be shut off in the evening and taken down. They will be put back in storage along with the decorations, waiting for the season to return.

Last of all, the dying tree is sent to its final resting place -- in the years that we actually have a live tree, which we didn't this year ... but that's another story.

Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

Old Christmas
    is past
Twelvetide
    is the last

And we bid
    you adieu
Great joy
    to the new.


(H/T to Steeleye Span.)
 

Christ-Mass: Day 12 (St Telesphorus/St John Neumann)

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming ...”

It is ironic that the last day of Christmastide should be anti-clamatic, if only for the day itself. The highlight comes later in the day. Meanwhile ...

The reformed Roman calendar honors Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, a native of Bohemia and Redemptorist priest who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.

In the traditional Roman calendar, Mother Church remembers Pope Saint Telesphorus, elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later. It is said that the tradition of celebrating Mass on Christmas at Midnight, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter, and the singing of the Gloria, all are attributed to his pontificate, but the historical accuracy of these claims are in doubt.

Tonight, a season ends, and tomorrow, a new one begins. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Christ-Mass: Day 11 (St Elizabeth Ann Seton)

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”

As the end of Christmastide draws near, life begins to turn to normal. The trees are taken down and are sitting on the curb, the usual workday routine begins again, and commercials for "holiday sales," having been extended just beyond the first day of the new year, are heard no longer. Meanwhile ...

Today is the feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, the mother of the Nation's parochial school system, and patroness of Catholic schools. Canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1975, she was the first native-born American to be raised to the altar.

From the original motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a branch house was established out west, known today as the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, based at Mount Saint Joseph-on-the-Ohio, located on the city's once-predominantly Catholic west side. This order did much to build, not only the parochial school system in this part of the Midwest through their teaching apostolate, but the health care system as well, through the establishment of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1852.

Concerning the role of women Religious and the health care apostolate, much has changed in recent years, to say the least. In light of the current health care legislation signed into law in the United States, and the capitulation by "leaders" of women religious orders, in forcing others to cooperate in acts against the Gospel of Life, let us pause for a moment to consider the irony.

And the exception.
 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Christ-Mass: Day 10 (St Geneviève)

“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping ...”

It is also the day that both the Eastern and Western churches remember the French shepherd girl Saint Geneviève, who lived in the mid- and late- fifth century. Her sanctity was noted at a very early age by Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who consecrated her to God at the age of seven. Genevieve is patroness of the city of Paris, which has been saved through her intercession more than once, the first time from her contemporary, Attila the Hun.

Geneviève loved to pray in church alone at night. On one such occasion, a gust of wind came into the church and blew out her candle, leaving her in darkness. She attributed this act of nature to the Evil One himself, that he was trying to frighten her. Thus she is often pictured as she is here, holding a candle. Other images show an irritated devil standing nearby.

In more than a decade of this weblog's existence, her commemoration has been a popular one. Don't ask me why.
 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Christ-Mass: Day 9 (The Holy Name of Jesus)

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing ...”

The traditional Roman calendar associates this day with the Holy Name of Jesus. It used to be associated with the day before, with the Feast of the Circumcision. (In fact, the Gospel reading for both feasts is identical.) Then in 1913, Pope Pius X moved it to the Sunday between the second and the fifth January inclusive, and in years when no such Sunday existed, to be observed on the second of January. Don't ask me why.

Historically, the observance of this feast has been all over the place until nearly one hundred years ago. The circumcision of a newborn male under Jewish law must take place eight days after the child's birth, at which time he is given his name. Small wonder, then, that the Gospel readings for both feasts in the traditional Roman calendar are the same. Some Western traditions, such as Anglican and Lutheran, celebrate both on the first of January, as did the Roman for quite some time -- you know, being the eighth day and all.

And speaking of names ...

I once heard a comedian pose this important theological question: “If Jesus was Jewish, why did He have an Hispanic name?” That occasion aside, it gives us an occasion of our own, to consider that the name "Jesus" was not an uncommon one in His day. Brian Palmer writes for Slate:

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters -- including a descendant of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2) ...

How would Christ have been addressed by those around him?

Certainly not as "Mister Christ." In fact, "Christ" was not a name, but an honorific, a title if you will, from the Greek Khristós for "anointed one." The Hebrew word was Moshiach or "Messiah." He would have been known by His given name, and the name of His father -- “Yeshua bar Yehosef” or “Jesus Son of Joseph.” In later centuries (or in present-day Iceland), we might easily surmise His having been addressed as “Jesus Josephson.”

We also know that He eventually left Nazareth in Galilee, the town of His childhood, for other parts of that country, as well as Samaria and Judea. In those places, He would have been just as likely addressed as “Yeshua Nasraya” or “Jesus of Nazareth.” We know this from Scripture, as this was the inscription on the Cross, which gave both His name and His offense, in three languages: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (actually, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” in Latin, “Ihsoûs ó Nazoraîos ó Basileùs tôn ’Ioudaìov” in Greek, and “Yeshua HaNazarei v Melech HaYehudim” in Hebrew). After all, a guy from a hick town like Nazareth would have been rather conspicuous in a high-falutin' place like Jerusalem, especially outside of the High Holydays.

The Scriptures also record him being addressed as “Jesus Son of David.” A man would also have been known for his extended family; that is, his tribe or house, as in “Yeshua ben David” or “Jesus of the House of David.” Or so I've read. But even though family lineage was everything in Jewish society, such an address was not as common in everyday use.

Or so I've read.

Devotion to the Holy Name has also been the inspiration for the National Association of the Holy Name Society. HNS chapters have been the basis for men's clubs in Catholic parishes for generations.
 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Christ-Mass: Day 8 (Circumcision/St Basil)

“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking ...”

The world knows it as New Year's Day. Our holy Mother Church knows it by many names.

First and foremost, it is the “Octave-day” or eighth day of Christmastide. Such was its name in the earliest liturgical books, thus remembered as the day of Circumcision, when a son of Israel was marked according to the Law. (It hurts just thinking about it.) In both forms of the Roman Rite, the brief account from Luke is proclaimed:

At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (2:21)

In the reformed Missal, the day is primarily known as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. While appearing as a break in tradition, it is a reminder of the Marian emphasis of the Feast, as found even in the orations of the pre-conciliar Missal. It was the tradition in Rome, that the Pope would go to one of the many churches in the city, whichever was the "Station" for that particular feast -- in the case of this one, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

But wait, there is one more...

In the East, today is known not only for the Circumcision, but as the Feast of Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, and one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church. Today is when the Greeks would traditionally exchange gifts. For many years, when I couldn't meet with Paul for Christmas (and as he was raised in the Byzantine Rite of his mother), I would make an occasion of this day.

With all that arcane information, you still have to admit that four names for one day is a lot. And to think the year is just getting started.